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D&D 5E Use Rope

Kobold Stew

Last Guy in the Airlock
Supporter
I want to bring back Use Rope as an ability in 5e.

In 3.x, Use Rope was a skill, which was (wisely) cut in 4e. Still, affection remains for this weird novelty from the past. Most of the problem was its limited use: it was a lame skill, and didn’t have the range of applications that other skills did. 5e however provides the perfect mechanism for incorporating Use Rope: not as a skill, but as a tool.

Tool proficiencies are cheap, but they’re still limited: a player needs to invest resources in the ones they choose, but stand to benefit if they allocate their resources in this direction. (They’re also things that can be taught, in time.)

The equipment chapter gives everything we know about ropes: DC 17 Strength check to escape. That’s actually a pretty low number all things considered. I suggest that a character with the “use rope” tool proficiency can add his proficiency bonus to this DC. (There’s no escape artist either, and the way out of ropes is with Strength, not Dex. Let’s keep it like that for simplicity’s sake, regardless of verisimilitude.)

There’s more that we could shoot for: add proficiency to escape from ropes; to Dex checks to use grappling hooks; to Wisdom (Survival) checks when using a climber’s kit. All those make sense to me, but for now let’s start simple: “use rope” lets you tie better knots than those who aren't proficient.

It would be a natural tool for a sailor to pick up (instead of navigator’s tools), or from mountain-born outlanders (instead of a musical instrument).

It’s entirely optional (in that if no player wants it, it never comes into play), but if present it gives the players precisely the bonus they think they have invested in, when they tie up the unconscious victim they have worked to capture.

There you go… a complete "use rope" module to help 5e players recapture that 3.x experience!
 

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DEFCON 1

Legend
The only potential downside to this is whether your not you follow the strict ruling of Tools on page 154 of the Player's Handbook. The first line under the heading is:

"A tool helps you to do something you couldn't otherwise do, such as craft or repair an item, forge a document, or pick a lock."

So by that reading... if you don't have a proficiency in a particular tool you aren't allowed to even attempt to do the activity at all (Disguise yourself, Pick a lock) or in the case of Artisan Tools and such, use them to earn money during Downtime (since I doubt anyone would rule you aren't allowed to cook at all without Cook's utensils... but instead you just can't get people to pay you for your work without a full complement of items.)

Tools seem to fall in that odd space wherein you either can't do the activity at all, or you always do it with your proficiency bonus added in. There are no times when you make the check without the bonus.

Thus, I don't think rope would technically fall under the category of "Tools", unless you weren't going to allow anyone else to use rope for any activity without first having proficiency (IE were trained in it). Its the same reason why things like the Climber's Kit, Crowbar, Fishing Tackle, Healer's Kit, and the like are listed under Equipment and not Tools-- anyone can use those things whether or not they are trained.
 

Why limit things to the mundane? This is a fantasy game after all.

Cantrips:
Detect Rope- This cantrip detects the nearest source of rope of X length or longer (specified during casting) within 1 mile of the caster.

No longer does your PC need to run around frantically screaming "You kids been stealing my rope again!!!" You will know where you rope is at all times.

NPCs will say, " Hey there's one hoopy frood who knows where his rope is."

Just imagine the possibilities! :p
 

jadrax

Adventurer
"A tool helps you to do something you couldn't otherwise do, such as craft or repair an item, forge a document, or pick a lock."

That does seem to be a problem.

It is pretty hard to 'knot a rope' without a rope, or 'swing from a rope' without a rope, or... actually I have run out of things to use rope for. But you get the idea.
 

The only potential downside to this is whether your not you follow the strict ruling of Tools on page 154 of the Player's Handbook. The first line under the heading is:

"A tool helps you to do something you couldn't otherwise do, such as craft or repair an item, forge a document, or pick a lock."

So by that reading... if you don't have a proficiency in a particular tool you aren't allowed to even attempt to do the activity at all (Disguise yourself, Pick a lock) or in the case of Artisan Tools and such, use them to earn money during Downtime (since I doubt anyone would rule you aren't allowed to cook at all without Cook's utensils... but instead you just can't get people to pay you for your work without a full complement of items.)

Tools seem to fall in that odd space wherein you either can't do the activity at all, or you always do it with your proficiency bonus added in. There are no times when you make the check without the bonus.

Thus, I don't think rope would technically fall under the category of "Tools", unless you weren't going to allow anyone else to use rope for any activity without first having proficiency (IE were trained in it). Its the same reason why things like the Climber's Kit, Crowbar, Fishing Tackle, Healer's Kit, and the like are listed under Equipment and not Tools-- anyone can use those things whether or not they are trained.

That's incorrect. Reread that sentence you quoted... the tool helps you do something you couldn't do otherwise, not the proficiency with it.

If you don't have the lockpick tool, you can't pick a lock.
If you have a lockpick, you can try to pick the lock.
If you have a lockpick AND you're proficient, then you have an even better chance of trying to pick it.

I need to tie something up. I can't do that unless I have a tool to tie it up with, that tool being rope.

However, you can Climb without a Climber's kit, so it doesn't meet the in-game definition of a tool.

See Also: Tweet from Mearls, quoted in the recent Sage Advice article on the EnWorld homepage (first 2 entries in the Equipment block of tweets).
 
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The only potential downside to this is whether your not you follow the strict ruling of Tools on page 154 of the Player's Handbook. The first line under the heading is:

"A tool helps you to do something you couldn't otherwise do, such as craft or repair an item, forge a document, or pick a lock."

So by that reading... if you don't have a proficiency in a particular tool you aren't allowed to even attempt to do the activity at all (Disguise yourself, Pick a lock) or in the case of Artisan Tools and such, use them to earn money during Downtime (since I doubt anyone would rule you aren't allowed to cook at all without Cook's utensils... but instead you just can't get people to pay you for your work without a full complement of items.)

Tools seem to fall in that odd space wherein you either can't do the activity at all, or you always do it with your proficiency bonus added in. There are no times when you make the check without the bonus.

Thus, I don't think rope would technically fall under the category of "Tools", unless you weren't going to allow anyone else to use rope for any activity without first having proficiency (IE were trained in it). Its the same reason why things like the Climber's Kit, Crowbar, Fishing Tackle, Healer's Kit, and the like are listed under Equipment and not Tools-- anyone can use those things whether or not they are trained.

Um, nope. A strict reading of that doesn't even have the word proficiency in it, so not sure how you extrapolated that from that sentence. It seems clear enough that if you lack a tool to do something specific you can't do it, i.e. you can't craft or repair an item without a hammer, and you can't pick a lock with your bare hands. In fact, it's pretty well established that you can try to do anything as long as you have the tool for it, the difference being you aren't very good at it if you don't have proficiency.
 

I agree with pretty much all of this except one thing: making the strength DC higher. Being able to tie cool knots in the rope isn't making the rope itself any stronger, and a DC17 is actually pretty high for 5E, falling between medium and hard. An average human would have a 3/20 chance of being able to break out, not exactly an easy thing to do. I would however, allow proficiency bonus for doing something other than a simple knot, i.e., making something strong except when pulled a certain way, a slip knot, a pretzel knot that kind of thing.
 

drjones

Explorer
Because in 5e pretty much everyone can at least try to do anything (that's why stat checks exist) I don't think there is any reason to not make any very specific skill a player wants an option. I mean anyone can try to lasso someone with a dex check and taking a proficiency to get better at it means you did not take a more generalized skill with more applicability for a bonus to that.

So long as a player is not swapping a standard skill for one that will be used more often or to greater effect than a standard skill then why not? Especially if you work it into your custom background.
 

MoutonRustique

Explorer
Being able to tie cool knots in the rope isn't making the rope itself any stronger
I'm sorry, but I have to disagree - "cool" knots DO make the binding stronger. The rope, in and of itself, no. BUT you won't be fighting the rope, you'll be fighting 2 ropes, 3 ropes, etc - that's the basic premise of braids : a physical configuration of an item that significantly increases its strength w/o having to use other materials.

The same can, and is, done with knots.

(In a nut shell, this is the crux of the problem of mundane v. magic for me - different understandings of reality.)
 

DEFCON 1

Legend
That's incorrect. Reread that sentence you quoted... the tool helps you do something you couldn't do otherwise, not the proficiency with it.

If you don't have the lockpick tool, you can't pick a lock.
If you have a lockpick, you can try to pick the lock.
If you have a lockpick AND you're proficient, then you have an even better chance of trying to pick it.

SilverfireSage said:
Um, nope. A strict reading of that doesn't even have the word proficiency in it, so not sure how you extrapolated that from that sentence. It seems clear enough that if you lack a tool to do something specific you can't do it, i.e. you can't craft or repair an item without a hammer, and you can't pick a lock with your bare hands. In fact, it's pretty well established that you can try to do anything as long as you have the tool for it, the difference being you aren't very good at it if you don't have proficiency.

Hrm... I believe you both are correct. Dunno how I came up with the other way of thinking... maybe an old playtest packet ruling got me twisted.

Thanks to you both!
 

Kobold Stew

Last Guy in the Airlock
Supporter
Its the same reason why things like the Climber's Kit, Crowbar, Fishing Tackle, Healer's Kit, and the like are listed under Equipment and not Tools-- anyone can use those things whether or not they are trained.

Honestly, if the idea has legs, then I think adding crowbar as a tool proficiency makes sense too. One of the play test drafts had a "Break stuff" skill, and (on exactly this analogy) a crowbar proficiency could be used to adjust the DC.

There's no rolls associated with Climber's kits or fishing tackle, and even the healer's kit, and so they're not really analogous -- there's no unproblematic way to map improving the use of such items with the proficiency boys. But certainly if someone were proficient in fishing tackle, I'd let them catch a bigger fish, or whatever -- but that's not what the heart of this proposal.

Crowbar is analogous, though. The question becomes whether sliding the DC is more valuable thatn other tool proficiencies.

I agree with pretty much all of this except one thing: making the strength DC higher. Being able to tie cool knots in the rope isn't making the rope itself any stronger, and a DC17 is actually pretty high for 5E, falling between medium and hard. An average human would have a 3/20 chance of being able to break out, not exactly an easy thing to do.

On the contrary, it's way too high for my taste. How often would a tied up character get to roll? Once a minute? Even if it's just a single roll (and other threads recently have shown that's not the way a vast majority of groups play it), that's still a very high escape rate, and why I think introducing a tool proficiency makes sense.

The question becomes, can one become better at tying someone up? I'm suggesting yes, and that the tool proficiency operates at a suitable granularity for those who would want this.

(As for the use of Str rather than Dex -- I'm accepting the rope rules as is; just trying to tweak the tool rules to replicate something from a previous edition. And because I wouldn't trust rope in this game for anything, with the DC set where it's at.).
 



Honestly, if the idea has legs, then I think adding crowbar as a tool proficiency makes sense too. One of the play test drafts had a "Break stuff" skill, and (on exactly this analogy) a crowbar proficiency could be used to adjust the DC.

No, I don't think "proficient" with a crowbar should be a thing. It already gives you advantage on applicable rolls. Anybody can use it, and it's not a sophisticated enough piece of equipment that extra training can make you significantly more skilled than an average "untrained" person to merit being called "proficient".

There's no rolls associated with Climber's kits or fishing tackle, and even the healer's kit, and so they're not really analogous -- there's no unproblematic way to map improving the use of such items with the proficiency boys. But certainly if someone were proficient in fishing tackle, I'd let them catch a bigger fish, or whatever -- but that's not what the heart of this proposal.

I'd argue that Climber's Kits and Fishing Tackle you do apply a roll to: Athletics and Survival, respectively. So they are rather relevant. However, you can climb or fish without the equipment in question, so not Tools by the game definition (though I might give disadvantage to fish without equipment, and to climbing sheer surfaces without a kit). You can also break stuff without a toolbar.

But again, rope IS more like lockpicks... you have to have that tool to do the job, and you can be trained to be better at it than someone untrained. It may be a hairpin or some jungle vine, but you need the tool in some form.

The question becomes, can one become better at tying someone up? I'm suggesting yes, and that the tool proficiency operates at a suitable granularity for those who would want this.

(As for the use of Str rather than Dex -- I'm accepting the rope rules as is; just trying to tweak the tool rules to replicate something from a previous edition. And because I wouldn't trust rope in this game for anything, with the DC set where it's at.)

Maybe rather than go more granular to get to back to something similar to an older edition's rule, go broader utilizing new rules in this edition: backgrounds. You're a Sailor or Bounty Hunter? Sure, add your proficiency bonus to tying that guy up to the DC. This approach then could be applied to many situations on the fly, without having to create a bunch of new Tool proficiencies that players have to split their limited proficiencies between. Also remember, most checks of this nature would have a relevant attribute to the proficiency as well. One could argue Dex or Int for tying someone up. But then you'd need to be pretty judicious with the base DC.
 
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Wormwood

Adventurer
You're a Sailor or Bounty Hunter? Sure, add your proficiency bonus to tying that guy up to the DC. This approach then could be applied to many situations on the fly, without having to create a bunch of new Tool proficiencies that players have to split their limited proficiencies between.
It's probably 13th Age's influence on me, but that's how I'd run it as well. Backgrounds are a wonderful mechanic for that sort of thing.
 

Kobold Stew

Last Guy in the Airlock
Supporter
It's probably 13th Age's influence on me, but that's how I'd run it as well. Backgrounds are a wonderful mechanic for that sort of thing.

It's also the way it's done in Barbarians of Lemuria and some FATE games (such as Diaspora). But it's a new mechanic for 5e, and I was trying to stick as close as I could to rules that already exist.
 

Henry

Autoexreginated
It's probably 13th Age's influence on me, but that's how I'd run it as well. Backgrounds are a wonderful mechanic for that sort of thing.

Amazing how 35 years later we came back around to basically the same idea Gary had back in 1979. (See "secondary skills" in the AD&D DMG.) :)
 

Andor

First Post
I actually had the same thought as the original poster.

Proficiency with rope use would imply a sailor-like ability with rope. You can make it, take it apart and remake it. You can splice two pieces of rope together, Splice an eye loop end into one, Tie slip knots, adjustable knots, use frapping to protect rope in hazardous uses, etc. Google saliors splices to see the kind of stuff you can do when you know what you're doing.
 

machineelf

Explorer
The only potential downside to this is whether your not you follow the strict ruling of Tools on page 154 of the Player's Handbook. The first line under the heading is:

"A tool helps you to do something you couldn't otherwise do, such as craft or repair an item, forge a document, or pick a lock."

So by that reading... if you don't have a proficiency in a particular tool you aren't allowed to even attempt to do the activity at all ...

I think you're misunderstanding that, or reading too much into it. All it's saying is that a tool allows you to do something you couldn't do without the tool. It's not saying you also have to be proficient to be able to use the tool at all.

EDIT: Oh nevermind, sorry. I see you already addressed this issue. I spoke too soon. My apologies.
 

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